Adult Height in Relation to the Incidence of Cancer at Different Anatomic Sites: the Epidemiology of a Challenging Association

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Recent analyses of large cohort studies indicate that adult height is associated with cancer at specific sites. In this overview, we review (1) the epidemiology of the association of height with specific cancer sites/types, focusing on the consistency and magnitude of the association and the possibility of confounding; (2) genome-wide association studies (GWASs) of variants associated with height; (3) studies using Mendelian randomization to investigate the association with several types of cancer; (4) studies of dietary and hormonal exposures associated with linear growth, particularly milk intake and circulating concentrations of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), that might mediate an association of height with cancer; and (5) the possibility that greater organ size associated with greater height may explain part of the association. We conclude that epidemiologic studies strongly suggest that height is associated with certain cancer sites/types and not with others, and propose a number of avenues for beginning to elucidate the pathways underlying this association.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-28
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent Nutrition Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2016



  • Anatomic sites
  • Cancer
  • Cellularity
  • Early life exposures
  • Genome-wide association studies (GWASs)
  • Height
  • Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1)
  • Linear growth
  • Milk intake
  • Organ size
  • Review
  • Steroid hormones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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